Committee to Tackle School Space Squeeze

Safety Line Cut in Budget; 5-year Plan Process Underway;

by Joan R. Simon

(April 6, 2006) The one or two additional classrooms needed next year to accommodate a growing Murray Avenue School student population are available, but there will not be adequate space in future years for the anticipated numbers. This was the conclusion Mamaroneck Superintendent Paul Fried drew from a brief overview of Dr. Lloyd Bishop’s demographic analysis at the April 4 School Board study session, (see: Studies Predict Murray Will Outgrow Classroom Space). To grapple with the problem, the board recommended establishing a district-wide space committee to evaluate possible solutions.

Murray Demographics
Murray Avenue School Space Squeeze: from the Lloyd Bishop Demographic Study.

Ideas suggested by board members included construction of additional classrooms at Murray, raising class sizes, and moving the Murray 5 th graders to the Hommocks, where there is adequate space. Another suggestion, redistricting, would not completely solve the problem because the total elementary population will slightly exceed the total space capacity by 2010, regardless of where the children are located. But if the elementary lines stay the same, Murray is the only school in the district where there will be insufficient classroom space.

The new space committee would be working on a district-wide basis to further the efforts of a committee at Murray Avenue School that is currently working to identify space for the 2006-07 academic year.

Cuts in Safety Line for 06-07 Budget

Also at the study session, changes were recommended to the proposed increase for security personnel included in the 06-07 budget. The original budget proposal called for nine additional security aides at the six district schools. (See: Superintendent's First Budget Unveiled: 7.9% Increase).

Funding for monitors at the elementary and middle schools will be taken out of the 06-07 budget. Instead a board committee of administrators, teachers and parents will be formed to study risks and solutions at those schools before implanting any new practices. We should “assess what our needs really are,” Dr. Fried said.

An additional budget allocation of $10,000 will be used for a consultant to advise the committee. A decision on how best to secure the elementary and middle schools is expected before the 2007-08 budget is proposed next year.

At the high school there are currently two security aides monitoring the two doors that remain open during school hours on the Post and Palmer sides of the building. Next year’s budget will provide for three additional aides: one at a door near the district administrative offices that will also stay open during the day and two to monitor the corridors after school until about 8:00 pm in order to prevent vandalism. The recommended changes across the district will reduce the security allocation in next year’s budget from $189,000 to $116,000.

Planning Process for the 5-Year Plan

The final item on the April 4th agenda was to establish a process for developing a 5-year plan. The school board members worked on identifying groups to be consulted and methods for reaching them in the initial phase of information gathering. Some of the suggestions included: conversations and focus groups among community members and parents; faculty and student meetings; internal program reviews; and surveys and input from alumni and retired teachers. Dr. Fried recommended “doing the work this spring to put things into motion” so that the process would be up and running next fall. He encouraged administrators and board members to “be as excellent listeners as we can be.”

From these sources, the board is expected to select items to be researched by study groups. The board will then hear presentations from the study groups and identify ideas and programs to implement and fund as part of a 5-year plan.

The process outlined at the study session is reminiscent of the “community conversations” held by the school board in the spring of 2002. From those emerged Task Forces on Special Education, Gatekeeping and Minority Achievement. The task forces were charged with investigating issues raised by the conversations and making recommendations to the board. (see: School Transformation Outside and In).